Fashion week used to be the business of the very few.
In what used to be a market-centric event catering only to a specific subset of designers, buyers, stylists and press; the democratization of fashion today (or digitization of “fashion week”) feels equal parts multi-billion dollar industry and pop culture spectacle, and we’re not just talking about women’s wear.
The continuous surge of male A-list collaborations with top fashion houses (Prada’s storied history of enlisting leading men for advertizing campaigns; Logan Lerman and Matthew Beard this season; the prevalence of Tom Ford, Lanvin and Dior Homme on the red carpet), top-seeded athletes (Rafael Nadal as Tommy Hilfiger’s brand ambassador, now; David Beckham for Emporio Armani, then), rappers and musicians (Kanye West for Balmain; A$AP Rocky for DKNY) all fuel a strong case for the increasing interest in the luxury aspect of men’s style.
All eyes are glued to the men’s runways—a function of mainstreaming, succinctly put.
It could be said that no other modern cultural institution comes close to playing a fluid role in stitching the global currents of commerce and technology, pop culture and politics, music and art—the deep undercurrents of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. On the interstices of clothing and the luxury industry, men’s wear, to nobody’s big surprise, has grown to become more than just the suits (and sometimes, the skirts – cue Jaden Smith’s agenda-setting turn in Ghesquière’s Louis Vuitton).
While Burberry’s glitter spangled models walked the runway on Monday (a nod to the passing of legendary artist and iconoclast David Bowie), the thick of the industry behemoth known as “fashion month” groans ever closer. As London Collections Men (or #LCM) concludes to make way for Milan, men’s wear in Paris and New York will bleed into haute couture by late January, the fall/winter women’s wear collections in the four major capitals in February.
This season at #LCM, the tech-led hegemony of Apple continues to dip its hands in luxury (with its history of CEO acquisitions from the high-fashion sector: Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts to Yves Saint Laurent’s Paul Deneve). Burberry, best-known for its strong British heritage and distinctive tartan print, debuted their men’s wear collection on Apple TV. A first for the tech-giant, the luxury label became first to premiere a real-time fashion show on the app.
One might say that men’s wear, let alone fashion, is no stranger to livestreaming a catwalk. Even slick collaborations with Apple is old-hat, but innovation in other areas are continuous at play. Jonathan Anderson, for instance, took his eponymous label to uncharted territory by partnering with social-networking app Grindr, a platform dedicated to connecting millions of gay men. It’s an advance that arguably already taps into a fashion-adjacent market, but at its heart, J.W. Anderson’s personalized, multi-channel approach has the spark of what new e-commerce models (such as Lyst and Spring, online retail platforms moving to gain wider ground) have been aggressively trying to achieve.
Remembering David Bowie’s indelible mark on culture and fashion, furthering men’s wear commerce at Pitti Uomo (the bi-annual trade-show cum fashion event to come in Florence), launching fashionable apps and wearables, merging social media and e-commerce—#LCM can only be portentous of what’s to come.
It’s easy to dismiss the marathon of fashion as some kind of luxury blood sport—an exclusive club for the 1%—or as some kind of mainstream bread and circus for the Snapchat-ready masses. It is all of these iterations and more. Fashion has evolved into an omni-channel conduit that prizes innovation just as much as newness and advancement just as much as, if not more than, design.
We live in a world where the business of “fashion week” could be mentioned with the same verve and excitement we bring to the World Cup or a Pacquiao title match. Fashion has become a new space for tech-infused spectacle, a relentless multi-billion dollar industry that re-imagines retail as the most modern form of entertainment.
Creativity coupled with commerce, fantasy grounded in luxury retail. Fashion, first and foremost, is a business.
We’re starting to see the well-dressed world in 1080p HD and the industry as a means for cultural commentary. The runway becomes our lens.
Fashion, bar none, has become the contemporary conversation.